The CELE Group of National Experts on Evaluating Quality in Educational Facilities met in March to discuss the Centre’s evaluation-related projects and to exchange their countries’ experience in this area.
The new OECD Conference Centre in Paris was the venue for the group’s first meeting on 30-31 March 2009. Experts and national delegates from 18 OECD member and non-member economies and UNESCO attended. This work commenced in 2005 with two ad hoc experts' group meetings and in 2008 became a formal OECD body that reports to the CELE Board of Participants, enriching the Centre’s work programme.
At its March meeting, the Group of National Experts provided useful input into two current CELE projects. The first, Evaluating Quality in Educational Spaces (previously known as the Facility Performance Evaluation Pilot Project), is in its implementation phase in a small number of secondary schools in five countries (see PEB Exchange, February 2008). The second provides country profiles in educational facilities. It is a country-based reference tool, for researchers, architects, facilities managers, planners, policy makers and others, composed of statistics and metadata on issues related to school and university buildings and equipment.
The national experts were acquainted with future CELE projects in this area. In collaboration with the European Investment Bank, the Centre will develop a conceptual framework and methodology for strategic investment planning in educational infrastructure (see CELE Exchange, February 2009). CELE is also planning a symposium on “Learning Environments: Usability and Sustainability” on 10-13 May 2010 in Manchester, United Kingdom. In addition, CELE will organise audiovisual case studies involving recording interviews with students and teachers about the facilities they use for learning and teaching.
The meeting offered many opportunities for countries to share information about their ongoing evaluation-related projects. The Flemish Community of Belgium presented a survey conducted by the Agency for School Infrastructure (AGIOn) to monitor the quality of the Community’s educational facilities, in addition to a new web-based instrument for schools that seeks to integrate sustainability into the design, construction and maintenance of school buildings. Portugal described its Secondary Schools Modernisation Programme; four schools have just been completed in the pilot phase, and the second phase involves rehabilitating more than 150 schools (see article in this issue of CELE Exchange). Japan presented its evaluation-related work, including the development of guidelines for school facility evaluations, due to be published and tested in 2009. Mexico announced that its guidelines for quality evaluation, which will include a national certification programme for education facilities, are well underway (see article in this issue of CELE Exchange). The Palestinian Authority explained its rehabilitation, construction and extension programme for more innovative, site-specific approaches to improve the quality of educational infrastructure using cost-effective solutions; the programme involved eight schools in the West Bank between 2004 and 2007.
A special session on the meeting’s second day explored the impact of the financial and economic crisis on the procurement and construction of educational facilities. Case studies presented on England and Ireland illustrated the impact on the education sector. Most countries remarked that investments into educational infrastructure are part of a broader plan for economic stimulus or are viewed as a potential area of investment that can stimulate economic activity. The crisis may provide an opportunity for vast improvements in the procurement of educational facilities, and for developing particular agendas. CELE is undertaking a telephone survey on the topic, in which ten countries have participated to date (see article in this issue of CELE Exchange).
For more information, contact Hannah.vonAhlefeld@oecd.org or consult www.oecd.org/edu/facilities/evaluatingquality.